Supreme Court to hear pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing Aad­haar in Novem­ber

Mint ST - - POLICY - BY PRIYANKA MIT­TAL priyanka.m@livemint.com NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day agreed to hear pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing var­i­ous as­pects of Aad­haar, in the first week of Novem­ber.

At­tor­ney gen­eral K.K. Venu­gopal sought a five-judge con­sti­tu­tion bench be set up for this pur­pose, but the court has not taken a de­ci­sion on this. The Cen­tre also told the court that the dead­line for manda­tory link­ing of Aad­haar in or­der to ac­cess so­cial wel­fare ben­e­fits had been ex­tended to 31 De­cem­ber. The ear­lier dead­line was set at 30 Septem­ber.

A to­tal of 22 cases have been tagged by the apex court to be heard by a smaller bench on Aad­haar.

They chal­lenge sev­eral as­pects of Aad­haar as well as the use and shar­ing of data col­lected un­der the pro­gramme.

Among these chal­lenges are those in­volv­ing mak­ing Aad­haar manda­tory for so­cial wel­fare ben­e­fits, in­fringe­ment of the right to pri­vacy, mak­ing Aad­haar manda­tory for fil­ing in­come tax re­turns, and for ob­tain­ing and re­tain­ing a per­ma­nent ac­count num­ber, or the PAN.

The out­come of these pend­ing cases that will be shaped by the judg­ment on hold­ing pri­vacy as a fun­da­men­tal right, will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine the fate of the Cen­tre’s 12-digit unique iden­ti­fi­ca­tion project Aad­haar.

On 24 Au­gust, in a his­toric rul­ing, the top court deemed pri­vacy to be a fun­da­men­tal right un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. Since it is not an ab­so­lute right, it led to the recog­ni­tion of an es­tab­lished stan­dard against which its vi­o­la­tion could be tested and proved in the court of law.

Now that there is a stan­dard—the right to pri­vacy is lim­ited only by fair, just and rea­son­able “pro­ce­dure es­tab­lished by law”, the judge­ment said—the gov­ern­ment will have to con­vince the court that pri­vacy con­cerns sur­round­ing Aad­haar ful­fil the test of rea­son­able re­stric­tion.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the Cen­tre is the process of draft­ing a data pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion and has ap­pointed an ex­pert group headed by for­mer Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikr­ishna.

There are more than 1.17 bil­lion Aad­haar hold­ers in the coun­try. The batch of pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing var­i­ous as­pects of Aad­haar is likely to be taken up by the apex court in the first week of Novem­ber.

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